1830 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Wordsworth

George Barrell Cheever, in Studies in Poetry ... A copious Collection of Elegant Extracts (1830) 292.



Wordsworth and Coleridge are the two greatest poets of the modern age. In some respects their poetical character is similar; but the genius of Coleridge is more wild and energetic and on the whole of a higher order; that of Wordsworth more still and contemplative. The language of the former combines richness and romance and splendour with its chastness; that of the latter is severe in natural simplicity. Coleridge has more fancy and invention, and delineates objects that are in themselves beautiful or sublime, clothing them at the same time with associated intellectual and moral conceptions. Wordsworth's characteristic is "the power of raising the smallest things in nature into sublimity by the force of sentiment. His peculiarity is his combination of simplicity of subject with profundity and power of execution. He is sublime without the muse's aid, and pathetic in the contemplation of his own and man's nature."

He possesses great descriptive power, and delineates the varieties of natural scenery with minute accuracy of observation and appropriateness of colouring. It were easier to write an eulogy than to speak in calm admiration of the powerful manner in which he links universal human feeling with the loveliness of the external world. Passages come to view on every page in his volumes of which the spirit goes down into the stillest depths of the soul; and touches of exquisite tenderness are scattered abundantly with such simplicity mid freedom, that they seem as if they had dropped unconsciously from the author in the pursuit of his silent musings.

The influence of his poetry is such that we cannot read it in a proper manner without having the understanding enlightened and the affections ameliorated. His are the thoughts which all mankind recognize as their most precious. birthright. Everything mean, passionate, and worldly, retires from their influence. All is purity, mildness, affectionate pathos; the lessons of experienced wisdom, noble philosophy, and pious reflection.

Amidst a multitude of minor poems, the most of which, are beautiful, it were vain to point out the most exquisite; but the poem of The Brothers may be referred to among his pathetic pieces, as displaying, in his own words, "the strength; of moral attachment, when early associated with the great and beautiful objects of nature." The Excursion, his longest poem, combines all the qualities of excellence which delight us in his shorter productions, and is the noblest effort of a great and comprehensive mind. He is indeed a mighty poet; possessed of an imagination grand and powerful, equalling perhaps what any writer has exhibited since the days of Shakspeare and Milton.